What It’s Like To Live In LA Without A Car

I don’t drive. It freaks me out. Knowing how oblivious I can be, I imagine that I would die a fiery death the second I pulled out of my driveway. Surprisingly, living la vida no license hasn’t been a problem for me. In high school, my friends loved to drive and had no problem picking me up. Then I moved to San Francisco for two years and have lived in New York for the past four. The only time it really becomes an issue is when I live in LA for brief periods of time. If you added up the summers and the semester I took off of college, I’ve probably lived in this city for a grand total of a year and a half. During that time, I’ve had to navigate the city without a license and let me tell you, it’s been a frustrating adventure.

Nobody walks in LA. Missing Persons was right. The only time you really see people on the street is when they’re exercising or walking their dog. Other than that, it’s just barren. I walk down major streets like Melrose and Sunset Boulevard in the middle of the day and am just surrounded by the sound of whizzing cars. It’s mortifying when you’re at a crosswalk and people are staring at you from their cars like, “WTF? Is that guy homeless? He’s wearing Marc by Marc though.” You feel very exposed when you’re the only person on a street and sometimes I feel like running to a side street and just hiding out. Most of the time though, it’s actually not that bad. When you live in LA without a car, navigating each day is like a challenge that you need to enjoy. You’ll go to dinner with your friend Diana at 7:00 in West Hollywood if she can pick you up. Otherwise, you’ll go to a restaurant you can walk to and meet someone else. At times, you’re entirely reliant upon the generosity of others. You structure your days around when people can give you rides. It’s certainly a far cry from living in New York where I have the freedom to go anywhere anytime. LA forces you to get creative. I have to pack a book, my iPod, my phone charger, and my computer every time I leave my brother’s house in the morning because, since he lives in the Hollywood Hills, I know I won’t have the luxury to go back and forth.

I take the bus a lot. Apparently that’s something you just don’t do in LA but I actually don’t mind it. They’re spacious, air-conditioned, clean, and arrive in a timely manner. Plus, it’s fun to spot the one other babe on the bus, the one other person who’s like “WTF AM I DOING ON THE BUS? SERIOUSLY?” I live for that person. That person gets me through the daze.

There’s an estimated five other people who don’t drive in LA and I know all of them. I don’t know why that is. Do we just attract each other like a bunch of lost souls or what? A good percentage of my friends in LA seriously don’t drive so I sometimes go weeks without seeing them. Yesterday I just so happened to be in Beverly Hills where one of my good friends without a license lives and we walked down Doheny to a coffee shop and stayed there for five hours until someone could pick us up. It was a lot of fun obviously but, jesus. I felt like I was in middle school waiting for my mom to pick me up from the movies. But such is the life of someone without a license in LA. You spend most of your waking moments just waiting.

I just realized how awful this makes LA sound so I feel like I have to note that I don’t actually mind not driving in LA. Sure, it can be annoying, and I certainly am in no rush to move back here, but not having a license allows me to have a lot of downtime. I’m stuck (literally) most of the time I’m in LA so I use it as an opportunity to read or listen to music. Living in New York, you don’t have time for anything, but when I’m in LA, I have nothing BUT time. It’s refreshing. That being said, counting down the days till I’m back in New York… TC mark

image – kla4067

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Shane


  • http://twitter.com/kmsYES Karen Seifert

    I visited LA for the first time last month, what a different place from NY.

  • Paul

    I’m visiting LA for 3 1/2 days for New Year’s and I’m already stressing about how I’ll get around without a car. I know two people that rely on public transit there and I’m baffled how anyone can do that. Kudos?

  • http://twitter.com/eltigrillo Daniel Alvarenga

    Why haven’t I seen you on the bus? I’m commute everyday on LA public transportation and it’s all true: that one babe, I don’t see people for weeks,  what I do depends on who can drive,  and being an overall 2nd class citizen. I have my license now though, and I much less prefer driving in LA.

  • http://twitter.com/DnlAlvarenga Daniel Alvarenga

    Why haven’t I seen you on the bus? I’m commute everyday on LA public
    transportation and it’s all true: that one babe, I don’t see people for
    weeks,  what I do depends on who can drive,  and being an overall 2nd
    class citizen. I have my license now though, and I much less prefer
    driving in LA.

  • emtay

    Waiting for the bus beats waiting for the 10 West to move.

  • M90999

    I’m spending the semester in LA. I haven’t heard great things about public transportation, but this article GMH.

    • alabama

      I’ve never seen that acronym at the end there and I think I get now that it’s supposed to mean “give me hope,” but it very much sounded at first like someone punched you in the stomach before you could finish your sentence.

  • Colleejk

    I live downtown, and its pretty easy to get around if you want to go to Silverlake or Hollywood. I live 5 miles from work, and it takes me 3o minutes by car to get there. If I had to take public transit, it would take me and hour. Woof.

  • http://twitter.com/Flarfer Dave P

    “There’s an estimated five *white* people who don’t drive in LA and I know all of them.”


    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

      This. The backbone of our nation rides the public transit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11705873 David Schilling

    There are plenty of walkable areas in LA…in the midst of a lot of barren wasteland. I don’t drive either, so I’m glad to see someone sticking up for the cause!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

    The only thing more annoying than NOT driving in LA:  actually DRIVING in LA!

  • Damenhandle

    Do people ever right about the Midwest on TC? In a non patronizing way?

    • Damenhandle


    • Hank

      Young urban professionals do not live in the Midwest, excepting Chicago. 

      • Damenhandle

        Twin Cities, MN. 

    • bartmart

      bart schaneman

  • April

    Are there no cabs in LA? 

    • Yoink

      Cabs are pricey, yo.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10036647 Aimee Vondrak

      LOL, taking a cab in LA would cost $34834060586 after all the sitting in traffic you’d do.

  • Sesamesnaps

    This is why I have no desire to live in LA, or even visit really. It seems totally backwards. Seems obvious to me that cities should be oriented primarily towards pedestrians/cyclists/commuters, not drivers. I like living in a city with no license or car and being able to walk or bike anywhere I please.

    • beatrice

      same for most part of the west coast… 

  • Seven

    And in today’s edition of  Ryan O’Connell’s diary

  • kittencabootle

    i recently saw this homo at a friends party, he was dressed like wheres waldo and is as fun and sassy as my grandma’s sunday bridge club, stay writing bout being gay because its about the only thing you have going for you. to sum it up he’s a fraud. like most of the other writers on here… Fraud Catalog

    • Anonymous

      Fuck you, hater!

      • amsterDan

        hahahaha anyone who took the time to defend someone who’s  as talentless as this freak needs to seriously have a reality check!!! his writing sucks, i agree with kitty “FRAUD” !!!

      • Denden

        Lol samefag

    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

      I love this comment! It’s so refreshing! Can we have a “Fraud Catalog” (or the time I’ve been most unauthentic) entry? Make it a collaborative work by TC’s finest (or worst lol).

  • http://twitter.com/keithpinthecity Keith Pence

    This is why I moved from LA to New York.  Fuck LA.

  • Vi Das

    I lived in LA without a car for a year after moving down from Berkeley. It was absurd. Going from my apartment in Burbank to work in Glendale took 8 minutes by car (3 miles) and an hour by bus, including a transfer halfway. Just ended up walking to work, took just as long as the bus would anyway.

    I just returned from a business trip to Asia and after 3 weeks of hopping on buses, trains and in cabs to get to wherever I needed, I really felt for the first time like I was strapping myself to tonnes of steel when I got back to LA and drove to work the next day.

    That’s my biggest complaint about LA. Not opposed to driving at all, but I feel like I have no choice but to drive if I want to make anything productive out of my days.

  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

    Has anyone taken the Metro Blue Line past 9PM? Every time I’ve had to ride it at that hour there has been a disturbed belligerent black man shouting. Is he hired to keep homeless people off the train from sleeping? I was on board last night and I was completely on edge. I actually found solace in the drunk gang member sitting adjacent to me repeating “being a genius means everything, you know?” He offered me a shot of tequila(!), which I declined, but now think I would’ve been more relaxed had I taken it. Sorry, not all of us can afford a Xan

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10036647 Aimee Vondrak

    You said you knew everyone in LA who doesn’t drive, but you don’t know me lol. Well, I don’t own a car. There was a long spot there that I didn’t drive and taking public transit in LA is so frustrating.

    I have nothing against homeless people but I actually feared my life one night on the Rapid from Santa Monica to downtown because some crazy homeless guy was trying to start a fight with anyone who accidentally bumped into him. “IF YOU TOUCH ME I WILL F-CKING KILL YOU.” And one Latino gentleman, non-English speaking, accidentally bumped him and the crazy man shoved him. Spanish speaking man was very afraid. Bus driver did nothing. Told everyone on the bus to ignore the guy. Unbelievable.

    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden


    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

      LOL For a second there I thought your last name read Von#DARK

  • http://twitter.com/mightymendoza Luis Mendoza

    I have been a bus commuter all my life and until recently purchased a bike (finally!) but I can relate to a lot of this. I currently live in Silverlake and commute downtown to the arts district where I work above Novel Cafe. Anyone else go from taking the bus to biking too?

  • Jessica

    So hilariously true about when you are the only person on the street. People think you’re some sort of an untouchable. However, I must disagree with the car thing. The valley is mostly where you have to have a car in order to get around, but if you’re talking about LA LA, I know a lot of native angelinos who don’t own cars and probably don’t plan on owning cars. Bikes will take you anywhere if youre up for the exercise. 

    • http://twitter.com/mightymendoza Luis Mendoza

      I’m an Angeleno and have never had a car!

  • Rusty_323

    Wait WHAT???? Nobody walks in LA. Huh?? LA as in Los Angeles, CA??I grew up in LA, ten minutes away from USC and there are as many people walking as there are cars or even more. I’m very familiar with the bus system and I have to say it pretty good, maybe not as good as New York but comparing the two is unfair. You can go from Long Beach to North Hollywood with ease and at the same time enjoy the view from an air condition metro. Currently I live in Orlando, Fl and if you want to talk about nobody walking that Orlando comes in as number one. Its so hot and humid here and the bus system is horrible!!!!

  • Amanda

    I’m sorry, clean?  spacious?  air-conditioned?  ON-TIME?  Aw, hell no.  Writer obviously has no idea what it’s like to ride the buses in rush hour traffic, from the ghetto, where NO ONE has a car.  Or at night where three or four buses in a row will actually have to pass you as you wait another hour because they all PACKED LIKE SARDINES.  I call fraud.

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